Regency Tower will Undergo Overhaul

NEW BEDFORD — Years after falling into disrepair, the city’s tallest building will get a top to bottom overhaul under the ownership of a Boston developer.
The Regency Tower, a 15-story apartment complex at 800 Pleasant St., will undergo a series of renovations, including repairs to its brick facade, roof and windows. Some of the apartments inside, of which only 33 percent are occupied, will be transformed into luxury condominiums.
Trinity Financial took title to the property July 9 and is already moving forward with its plan to renovate the building. In a hearing this Thursday before the Zoning Board of Appeals, the real estate developer will request a permit to change the top floor from commercial to residential space and add six more apartments to the 123-unit building.
City planner David A. Kennedy praised the proposal, calling The Regency the city’s “keynote” project.
“It’s the tallest building in New Bedford, it commands the best views. It’s a prime piece of real estate that anchors downtown and it’s deserving of the attention,” he said.
The project will cost Trinity an estimated $14 million, Kennedy said. It is scheduled to be completed by early 2010.
Trinity bid $1.9 million for the property when MassHousing, also known as the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, put it up for sale last November. At the time, the company pledged extensive exterior and interior repairs to the structure and proposed turning seven units into artists’ working and living space or luxury penthouses.
The Regency is home to a few businesses, including Northwestern Mutual Life and Elite Operations Co. Trinity has proposed reserving room on the first floor for commercial use, Kennedy said.
“We especially look forward to working closely with Mayor Scott Lang and his economic development and housing team,” project manager Vince Droser told The Standard-Times after closing on the bid. “Trinity shares Mayor Lang’s vision of a restored Regency Tower that is filled with residential owners who want to take advantage of the great shopping, restaurants and expanding arts scene in the downtown.”
Lang, along with Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, and the Economic Development Council, have publicly supported the proposal.
MassHousing foreclosed on The Regency after developer Patrick Carney and several investors amassed $27 million in loan debts in 2005. The agency also criticized Carney for neglecting the building.
After an engineering report in 2003 determined that the facade was unstable, management placed scaffolding around the building to protect people from falling bricks. Tenants at first had been asked to leave, but the city later ruled that the facade, while weak, was not in danger of collapse.
Six years later, the scaffolding still frames the bottom half of the building.
“From a marketing standpoint, it’s easy to understand why the building is only 33 percent occupied when you’re walking under scaffolding with giant boards on top of it all the time,” Kennedy said. “Everybody is afraid the sky is falling. It hasn’t, but it’s given the appearance that it could at any time.”
Tenants over the years have voiced other concerns, including mold gathering around old windowsills, broken security cameras and weak water pressure.
Kennedy and other proponents of Trinity’s proposal claim it could help to revitalize the city’s economy.
“It’s just a real score for downtown,” Kennedy said.
July 20, 2009
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